On a recent cold and gray December Sunday, dozens of Italian families gathered to celebrate a Sicilian Christmas cookie at Casa Italia, the Italian cultural center in west suburban Stone Park. Little known outside Italian-American communities, the fig-stuffed treats, called cuccidati, are loved enough to warrant their own festival, now in its second year.
“Cuccidati are very special Italian seasonal fig cookies made in southern Italy and Sicily, particularly in the Palermo region where it has a very Arab influence,” said event organizer Michael Benedetto at the Dec. 10 event. “People make them with figs, dates, raisins; these were all fruits introduced by the Arabs in the island. We think this goes back many hundreds of years.”